Grant to Port Angeles Police Department aids program for homeless

$84,000 in funding to benefit REdisCOVERY outreach

PORT ANGELES — The Port Angeles Police Department has received a grant to continue the REdisCOVERY program, a partnership with the Olympic Peninsula Community Clinic, through next June.

Chief of Police Brian Smith announced Wednesday that the department had received an $84,000 grant from the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs (WASPC) as a part of a $2 million package approved by the Legislature.

“We’re really excited about that,” Smith said in a Friday interview.

REdisCOVERY helps the homeless and others find services and resources they might not know are available.

It involves a social worker embedded with officers to connect people to medical, dental, housing and drug treatment resources that could help them avoid the court system or emergency room.

Amy Miller, a community change agent who heads the program, has worked with the police department in REdisCOVERY since June 2018, Smith said.

“We selected someone with a masters in social work for a reason,” Smith said of Miller.

Miller was not immediately available for comment Friday.

Smith said the WASPC grant combined with new funding provided by Olympic Peninsula Community Clinic would keep the program running through June 2020.

The police department is pursuing other grants to continue to put embedded social workers into the field, Smith said.

A renewed federal Homeland Security Operation Stonegarden grant will enable a social worker to patrol the Port Angeles waterfront along the Olympic Discovery Trail, Smith said.

“It’s a natural connection to places that we want to go anyway,” Smith said.

Smith added that REdisCOVERY works closely with the Port Angeles Fire Department’s Community Paramedicine program.

In that pilot program, Community Paramedic Dan Montana proactively helps patients who use 9-1-1 as a primary medical provider.

Montana provides patient assessments, wound care, assistance with medications, chronic disease management and referrals, among other services.

The fire department has partnered with North Olympic Healthcare Network, Olympic Medical Center, Peninsula Behavioral Health, Jamestown Family Health Clinic and Lower Elwha Tribal Clinic to provide the service.

Fire Chief Ken Dubuc told the City Council last Tuesday that the community paramedic had 78 individual contacts in the first half of 2019, representing a mid-year savings of $95,536 in reduced calls for service, hospital transports and emergency room admissions.

In REdisCOVERY, Miller coordinates her work with the Port Angeles Fire Department, Sequim Police Department, Peninsula Behavioral Health, North Olympic Healthcare Network and other partners to maximize the goals of the program, Smith said.

He said the $84,000 WASPC grant was one of nine awarded to law enforcement agencies statewide.

“The funds will help local law enforcement agencies establish and expand mental health field response capabilities by utilizing mental health professionals to professionally, humanely, and safely respond to encounters involving persons with mental health issues,” Smith said in a Wednesday press release.

“People experiencing mental health crises are not necessarily committing crimes, but communities continue to rely on law enforcement to respond to those crises. These grant funds will help local law enforcement agencies focus on sending help where help is needed.

“Mental health professionals will be working in the field alongside law enforcement,” Smith added.

“This improves the interactions between the public and law enforcement, thereby reducing the possibility of using force, and improves public safety overall.

“Instead of waiting to respond to a crime that may require an arrest and a booking into jail, officers and social workers go upstream to connect persons in need with services or divert them to a more appropriate facility.”

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Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56450, or at [email protected].

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